Captured and preserved

Cherry blossoms carefully cultivated to bloom when needed most. Washington DC, March 2013

Cherry blossoms carefully cultivated to bloom when needed most.
The Sackler Gallery, Washington DC, March 2013

“But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved…”

John Tobias, from his lovely poem

The beautiful cherry blossoms pictured above were on display inside the Sackler Gallery weeks before the local trees were in bloom.  I asked staff there “are they real?” and on being assured that they were, I asked where they had come from.  Apparently they were cultivated in a greenhouse and arranged for display as a sort of complement to the profusely blooming trees that showed up much later than people had hoped for in 2013.  Thus visitors to the Sackler did not have to leave DC without seeing a single cherry blossom!

As this blog nears its first anniversary, I am thinking of all the unexpected blessings I have received from my impulsive Saturday-morning decision to start it as a means of staying positive in the face of seemingly relentless bad news.  I feel so fortunate to have enjoyed the online company of people I know and love in “real life” as well as those I have never met in person.

A side, benefit, though, is that I’ve documented here, in both posts and comments, many memories that are otherwise not recorded.  Even if I ended this blog tomorrow (which I don’t plan to do) I would still have quite a voluminous compendium of photos, thoughts and ideas from me and from many others.  Perhaps this is my own version of the pickled watermelon Tobias wrote about in his beautiful poem, which has long been a favorite of mine.

As a librarian, I’m an archivist at heart, and this tends to work against me in some ways, leaving my home cluttered with annoying piles of papers, cards and memorabilia that I never seem to get around to sorting.  Despite the tendency to save far more than I should, I still believe there is something valuable in cultivating, capturing and preserving the happy and good and beautiful aspects of our lives.  As with the cherry blossoms above, which provided a hint of beauty that cheered disappointed visitors who found the famed cherry trees still bare after they had traveled long distances to see them, our carefully preserved memories can brighten the days of waiting for anticipated blessings that often seem agonizingly long in arriving.

What can you do today, to capture and preserve something beautiful from your past or present as a gift to your future self and others?  Maybe it’s something as simple as a shared memory in a personal note or card sent to a loved one far away.  Maybe it’s taking (or revisiting) a photo of something fun or wonderful.  Maybe it will be a journal entry, or an exquisitely crafted scrapbook page, or a blog entry.  However you capture or preserve something beautiful, the time you spend will be worthwhile, as it carries a double blessing: cheering you today, and bringing reminders of hope, joy or love to yourself and others in the days and years to come.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Judy from Pennsylvania

    For the past 3 weeks, on my daily walks I’ve been collecting pretty autumn leaves. The search for the very best colors helps me concentrate on finding beautiful things, and that in itself brings me moments of joy. It also takes me back to my childhood days of walking to school on cool mornings and taking delight in finding one pretty leaf to tuck in a book. For me, leaf collecting is a touchstone to those simpler, happy days.

    So I come home with a handful of colors from God’s paintbox. The leaves this year are the prettiest they’ve ever been. Some are crimson and some are spotted with yellow, various reds, orange and green all on one leaf. Amazing. I’m pressing them in magazines to save for a table decoration this Thanksgiving. Somehow it seems like an important thing for me to do right now. It’s like having an art project and a thankfulness meditation during my walks.
    There’s much to be thankful for.

    Do you ever collect pretty leaves too?

    • Hi Judy! Yes, I have often collected pretty leaves in years past. The first November after we returned to Virginia (having lived for most of Jeff’s career in the warmer climates of California, south Texas or Hawaii, where there is no real autumn) I was so delighted with the colorful leaves that I saved many of them. I pressed them into books, intending to use them in some sort of project, but then forgot about them. In cleaning out old books and papers recently, I kept coming across them! They have lost much of their vibrant color over time, but the memory of how they delighted me remains. One of my PostCrossing correspondents sent me some pressed leaves from Russia. I was delighted to get them in the mail this year.

  2. Good morning, Julia!
    The author of today’s Upper Room message mentioned in his “more from the author” note that he had autographed and distributed copies of the UR magazine that contained his submitted message. I thought – that’s a great idea! I wish I had thought of it years ago when I’d had an entry published.
    Did you sign any, when yours were published?

    • Susan, no, I have never signed any of the published articles from any of the magazines in which my work appeared. Nobody ever asked me to do that, and I would feel a bit presumptuous passing them out. In fact, in my recent cleaning and sorting of the York home, I almost wonder whether to keep my own copies of what I’ve published, whether in secular, professional or faith-based magazines. I haven’t saved all my copies in any set place, so they are scattered here and there. When I come across them, sometimes I am surprised that I had totally forgotten about writing them. From the perspective of time, they seem very insignificant now. I did save (and have hanging in my craft room closet) a lovely poster that a woman in our congregation made years ago, that featured many short devotionals I had published in Power for Today. She decorated the poster beautifully and hung it in the vestibule at church, where I was surprised and delighted to see it. I let it hang there for a few weeks before thanking her and taking it home with me.

      • How sweet of that woman from church, to make the poster for you!
        Maybe you could consolidate your writings into a location in your library (or craft room). They are bound to be valuable to someone or some ones either at present or at various points in the future.

        • Thanks Susan. Maybe everything into one box for now? Also, many publishers send multiple copies of a publication where one’s work appears– a throwback to the days when one had to send published clippings with submissions. Even though I know it’s illogical to keep multiple copies of something, I have a hard time throwing them away! But that’s an altogether different problem… 😀

  3. Susan

    I always feel so sorry for people who travel here for the cherry blossoms and miss them! (And those whose once-in-a-lifetime trip to DC coincides with horrendous summer heat.) When I first moved here the cherry blossom festival was a week long. Since it missed so often, it was expanded to two weeks. Now it’s three weeks long (or at least was before the pandemic) just to ensure that some part of it coincides with the actual blossoms. But that doesn’t help the tourists.

    I do love your recognizing that this blog helps capture your memories in an accessible way. As I’ve been on facebook ten years now, I’m having the same experience. Every day facebook shows my posts from that day in previous years and so often it is something that would otherwise have been forgotten. I have one friend in particular who passed away much too young five years ago but shows up frequentlly in Facebook Memories and those preserved interactions are so treasured.

    As my sister goes through our dad’s house, she is going to give me the old family photos (including those old square Brownie camera black-and-white photos we talked about here, Julia!) to send to a scanning service. Then I can share the full set with all my siblings, which will make me feel like a special part of our family history is preserved for all of us.

    • Susan, I feel the same way about when people visit. I always tell them that spring is a lovely time to come and play the “peak blooms” lottery- if you happen to hit it right, great! But even if you don’t, still a wonderful time to visit the DMV, so no loss either way, and there’s always next year! I try to warn people away from late summer visits. So much in our area requires outdoor walking. I well recall my first visit to Mount Vernon, way back in August 1975. What would have been a wonderful experience was made miserable by that sticky HOT Potomac weather, with no air-conditioned Visitor Center in those days to which I could flee for cooling off. I realized then that my romantic versions of the past never considered how miserable those lovely gowns and suits must have been in such weather.

      Re: those Facebook memories– I never did much on Facebook, at least not consistently, and I now mostly stay away from it for the reason you mentioned– those memories that pop up are often painful or at least emotional, distracting me from the business at hand and often detonating into grief again. I trust there will come a time when this will be less so, but for now, what would be a wonderful feature for most is something that works against me. I can see where it would be valuable, though, because it does document much that would otherwise be forgotten. If not for the privacy issues, I think it would be great to use Facebook as a sort of journal. But even if one does not “share’ postings, Zuckerberg and his minions will find a way to make money off of it, so for now I stick with more traditional ways to capture moments in time. I’ve gotten to where I snap a lot of photos with my cell phone camera, which is always with me while I’m out.

      Kudos to you for scanning your old family photos! I am happy for every photo I’ve sent to scanning services, and I hope eventually to have them all scanned. I believe in preserving such family archives. It’s nice that you are willing to do this for your siblings. It takes time, I know (and money too), but it’s a gift no one else is likely to offer them.

  4. Susan

    I agree, Julia, facebook can be a source of too much sadness. Friends who have gone through loss of a husband as you have, or loss of a child.

    We are blessed to live in a time when we can so easily keep or preserve our photos, even if at times we choose not to look at them because emotional reactions might be overpowering.

    • Yes, I agree. Archives are important, and even when we can’t bear to look, there is a comfort in knowing they are there. I would not trade my photos for anything. They can provide much joy amid the sorrows!

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: